Comic Review: 4001 A.D.: Shadowman #1

  • Writers: Jody Houser, Rafer Roberts
  • Art: Robert Gill
  • Color Art: Michael Spicer
  • Letterer: David Sharpe
  • Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
  • Release Date: July 6th, 2016

Far away from the action and destruction of 4001 A.D., Valiant newcomers Jody Houser and Rafer Roberts show us a vision of the Shadowman in the far future.

4001 A.D.: Shadowman #1 Synopsis

In the wastelands of somewhere, the living and the dead exist together, checked only be a tenuous peace. Today is the Sacrifice, a time when the living city of Gethsemane sends three orphans to the city of the dead, Sanctuary, so that the magic maintaining both cities can be perpetuated. Kaia is one of those sacrifices – as are Kym and Jardon. But a military leader named Tarley isn’t having any of this Sacrifice nonsense. He’s tried – and rightly so – of having to send children to Sanctuary to die, even if it is to keep both cities functioning. So, he concocts a plan to sabotage the whole ritual.

Naturally, the plan doesn’t go as planned and Kaia discovers that the ‘demons’ on the other side of the wall between cities might not be as bad as all that. And when the mystic machine is sabotaged, it only brings destruction. The slumbering loa awaken, including our future Shadowman. Tarley instigates an invasion of Sanctuary, which is naturally turned away by Kaia, who has now come around, and the Shadowman. Peace is temporarily restored to Sanctuary and Gethsemane… or is it?

4001 AD Shadowman #1 cover4001 A.D.: Shadowman #1 Analysis

Like the preceding 4001 A.D. tie-ins (including Rai), 4001 A.D.: Shadowman #1 is only tangentially related to the main action.  Aside from the aside mention of New Japan, and the awkward deus ex machina at the climax, this issue absolutely stands alone. In fact, it’s so far removed, I could honestly envision this as a post-apocalyptic fantasy comic with no connections to Valiant. Whether or not that’s a good thing, I haven’t decided, but I definitely want more of this story.

That being said, this standalone issue hits a number of points one might expect a post-apocalyptic fantasy to hit: wasteland, demons, sacrifice, angry military guy, gunfight, etc. It is, admittedly, unfair to boil a work down to its constituent tropes, but when a work hits so many, it’s hard not to. Yet, like many Valiant works, this issue amounts to more than just the sum of its tropes. A whole world is teased – a whole world of two cities. Previous 4001 A.D. tie-ins expanded the world beyond just New Japan, but this one remains limited in scope to just Gethsemane and Sanctuary.

Something interesting to note noticed with these tie-ins: they’ve been scaling back their scope gradually. 4001 A.D.: X-O Manowar encompassed a span of thousands of years; Bloodshot a short adventure; now Shadowman narrows it down to just two cities and their symbiotic relationship – and they’re relationship to New Japan has gotten more and more tangential.

Final Thoughts on 4001 A.D.: Shadowman #1

I enjoyed this issue, I really did. I feel like my reviews tend towards the critical, but that doesn’t diminish my enjoyment. I think this issue worked very well overall. Houser and Roberts are a wonderful pair that I would love to see collaborate more, whether under Valiant’s umbrella or otherwise.

Robert Gill’s art for this issue is fantastic. His style fits very well the apocalyptic mystic ramshackle aesthetic that Gethsemane and Sanctuary have going. Although I was a big fan of his work on Book of Death, I actually thought he had worked on Shadowman before. After perusing my trade volumes, I discovered I was mistaken. Roberto de la Torre had worked on Shadowman #0 and Shadowman #13-16. Gill’s art for this issue was such in the same vein as de la Torre’s that I mistook him for the same man. And this is not a criticism of Gill: I really enjoyed de la Torre’s art and thought that he – and now Gill – provided the best art on Shadowman’s VEI incarnation.

In short, 4001 A.D.: Shadowman #1 was wonderful, a nice teaser to whet your appetite for more adventures in the world of Valiant 4001 A.D.

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About the author

Tyler Counsellor

A fan of fantasy novels, anime, comics, and whatnot, Tyler has decided to waste his English degree on writing reviews instead of focusing on his own writing, like he should.

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